Insurance exchanges open, users face problems signing up - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Insurance exchanges open, users face problems signing up


Americans can officially sign up for the new online health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but many who tried to sign up on Tuesday ran into problems with the website.

The Affordable Care Act and new marketplace exchange will change the way insurance agents do business.

"They won't ask about your health, past or pre-existing conditions," said Texas Association of Health Underwriters member Wendy Bratteli. "What they'll ask is where do you live, ZIP code and income."

But new applicants are running into problems when they log on and try to sign up. The website was overloaded all day Tuesday, queuing visitors and unable to accept many applications.

"There is so much confusion and so many delays,"  said Robert Hahn, who owns his own insurance agency in Tyler. "I don't see how they're going to bring this to fruition. I think they're going to have to have a 30 day, 60 day delay on this."

After users log on and create an account, they will be asked to fill out personal info such as their date of birth, social security number, current insurance status and income. Based on income, some applicants may qualify for a government subsidy. Users will then be presented with four plans with ranging coverage: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

"It's designed so you can do it at home," Bratteli said "The problem with that is not everybody has a computer, or if they have access to it in their home, it doesn't mean they know how to use it."

Resources have been set up for those needing help, ranging from call centers to in-person guides called "navigators."

Here in East Texas, the East Texas Behavioral Health Network received nearly $1.4 million to fund navigators. But as of Tuesday, the group said they are still not fully up and running.

"Like a new restaurant opening in town, let the rush fade," Bratteli said. "Apply maybe the latter part of the month, first part of November. It's not a six-week process, they can do it in a few minutes and get signed up."

"Today's the first day," Hahn said. "People have three months to try and decipher this, plan what they want to do and exercise their option."

Applicants have until December 16 to enroll and be insured by January 1, 2014.

If you would like to see your options and how the new law affects you, click here.

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